John Sebastian at World Cafe Live
John Sebastian on August 10, 2017
I was excited to cover the John Sebastian concert in Philly at The World Cafe Live the other night. I have been a fan for a long time, and what that also means is that Sebastian has been a big part of the musical history of these good old United States. Staying on the history topic, Sebastian started the show with a bit of his own history, and that was the theme of the show throughout. The show turned out to be more than his music. His stories each led to a song, and each story was actually a history of John Sebastian, and The Lovin' Spoonful.
Sebastian was born in Greenwich Village and at a certain age started seeking the musical explosion that was emanating from the clubs in the neighborhood. Not equating his music with the traditionalists, he leaned toward guys like Lightnin' Hopkins. This story was an intro into “Shining Moon,” a Lightnin’ Hopkins blues. Then Sebastian told how he was picking up music not only from the Greenwich Village clubs but also from the radio. He then played a lick from “Heat Wave” and expressed how cool the chord progression was and figured if he played that progression faster, it would be even cooler, which led to “Do You Believe In Magic.”
Lovin’ Spoonful gigs in Greenwich Village coffee houses led to gigs in high schools in the Bronx before sending them on a trip west to play in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood strip clubs. He told some great stories from that trip, which also led to a contract with Kama Sutra Records, which started pushing for more songs. All of this led to more of the great Lovin’ Spoonful songs we all love. Next hit up, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice.”
Each great story yielded another great song, “Younger Girl,” “Strings Of Your Heart,” Mississippi John Hurt’s “Lovin’ Spoonful,” which gave the band its name, “Sittin' Here Lovin' You,” "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind," “Nashville Cats,” and on and on.
At one point the stories went back to Greenwich Village, and mention of local stores on Bleecker Street. When Sebastian mentioned Zito’s Bakery, a bell went off for me. A. Zito and Sons, a landmark New York bakery, had the best hot out of the oven, whole wheat bread on earth. Music and memories all great, all night. God, I miss that bread.
Sebastian ended the show with “What A Day For A Daydream” and encored with, of course, “Welcome Back.”
It was a great night traveling through a lot of Sebastian’s history and how it generated the music.
If you like the music and want to enjoy a great night out with an easygoing, really great storyteller, try hard to catch John Sebastian in concert.
Mark J. Smith